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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Welcome to Heather Kisselback, new exec for Prevention Council of Saratoga County

Parents can’t protect their kids from every risk, as mentioned in the earlier post about prom time. But parents need to set ground rules for such things as curfews and to make expected behaviors clear. Along with consequences.
Of course, you can't expect to start parenting two weeks before the prom. It's a lifelong challenge that starts with Day One.
Need advice along those lines? I’ve always found the nonprofit Prevention Council of Saratoga County a great resource for the community.
Judy Ekman has done so much over the last two decades to establish the Prevention Council and its offshoot, the Saratoga Partnership for Prevention, as the place to turn for education, information and hands-on programs to promote a community safe from substance abuse and other dangers.
Newly retired, Ekman will no doubt remain a resource.
I am pleased to congratulate Heather Kisselback as the newly appointed executive director. By all accounts, Kisselback has, as Prevention Council board president Michael Smith told The Saratogian, the "background, knowledge and energy" for the job.
Welcome, Heather.

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Kudos to PTSO offering post-prom party

Just received the press release announcing that the Saratoga Springs High School Parent-Teacher-Student Organization will host the eighth annual Post Prom Party from midnight to 3 a.m. May 16, following the May 15 junior-senior prom.

Some kids will turn their noses up at something organized by adults. I think it's a great idea to offer, as the release states, "a fun and safe alternative to other post-prom activities" for students and their dates.

The PTSO is seeking donations, 100 percent of which goes toward the event. Monetary donations can be made to: SSHS PTSO, 1 Blue Streak Blvd., Saratoga Springs, N.Y., 12866. Donated items, such as door prizes and food, are also welcome, and arrangements can be made for pick-up.

Here's the rest of the info from the release:
Eligible students can attend even if they don’t go to the prom. Advance tickets will be available for $5 each when prom tickets go on sale or at the door for $7. Raffle prizes include tickets to the Great Escape, movie tickets, I-pods, a digital camera, mini recorders, gas gift certificates, video game systems, and more. The goal is for each student to go home with a prize.

For more information, contact Bonnie Nicolosi at 587-4272 or

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Laura Chodos earned Saratoga Springs Rotary award

I was delighted to learn that Laura Chodos is the recipient of the Saratoga Springs Rotary Club's Senior Citizen of the Year award. (See complete story at

Chodos (second from right in photo) would be an excellent pick for Citizen of the Year, regardless of her age.

I remember someone telling my then-55-year-old mother-in-law that he wished he has a quarter of her energy. "You do!" she retorted. Likewise, Laura Chodos at 83 years old still demonstrates the energy and passion for public service that leave most of us in the dust. She's equally adept at coming up with ideas and, as Superintendent Janice White noted at Wednesday's ceremony, rolling up her sleeves and leading by example.

When she's trying to get something going, she's the nicest noodge. And she's selfless and unassuming to boot.

"She has the ability to get people together and have them focus on issues ins a real work-group," noted John Nelson, who nominated Chodos for the award.

Congratulations, Laura, on a well-deserved honor.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Skidmore College and '4-20'

Last year, The Saratogian checked out what was happening at Skidmore College on "4-20," a national event "celebrated" primarily on college campuses by smoking pot out in the open with impunity. The doings at Skidmore were mild, especially compared to some other big schools elsewhere. But it was still a story -- and the giant octopus bong made for memorable pictures. How much of a story was open for debate, and there was plenty of that. Some readers were appalled that such a thing occurred, while others found it laughable that college kids smoking pot was considered news. Still others condemned The Saratogian for being party-poopers and for letting a minority of students cast Skidmore in a negative light.
The same divergence of opinions exists a year later, though in recent months people across the country are increasingly willing to accept the concept of legalizing marijuana for medical uses.
Anyway, we revisited the Saratoga Springs college's campus at 4:20 on 4-20 and found, well, just a bunch of kids sitting around. It's the kind of followup you really have to do after having played it on the front page the year before.
This year, students were on notice from the college that an outdoor pot party would not be well-received. No tents or other enclosures were allowed on the lawn. So whatever pot smoking was going on that day wasn't happening then and there.
Who knows, some day it may become a legal recreational drug. Maybe.
Some comments on the story likened "protesting" the illegality of pot by smoking it out in the open to the civil disobedience of Rosa Parks. No matter what you think of the legalization of marijuana, the civil rights movements and Roas Parks should not be trivialized by such a silly comparison.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Have a traffic gripe in Saratoga County? Click it and we'll try to fix it

On the home page you'll find a new feature that makes it super easy for you to pinpoint aggravating and potentially dangerous traffic issues in our area.
When you see it, click on the spot and add your comments.
We'll bring the issue to the attention of the appropriate agencies and report back to you in the print Saratogian and online.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Funny Cide, horse-drawn carriages and vacations

Horses are always on our mind in Saratoga Springs, for good reasons. And Tuesday, April 20, is the 10th birthday of Funny Cide, the surprise Kentucky Derby winner partly owned by local resident Jack Knowlton. Reporter Paul Post is working on a story about how Funny Cide is enjoying retirement.

I am just back from a vacation in Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., where horses were everywhere in the cities' historic districts -- pulling carriages with tourists.

A horse-drawn carriage sounds fun and maybe even romantic. But walking by the horses on vacation, I couldn't help but notice how tired and sad they seemed. The question of whether an impending air show would spook the horses in Charleston led to a dispute between city officials and carriage owners. The concern seemed not so much about the well-being of the horses, but about the safety of people around them.

Coincidentally, Sunday's New York Times ran a piece about whether horses that draw carriages receive adequate time off to roll in the grass.

Well, I have 561 unread e-mails to check, stacks of newspapers and paperwork to catch up on, and a staff to bug.

Friday, April 16, 2010

How late should the Saratoga Springs bars stay open?

For all of my adult life I've lived in Saratoga Springs, and I've always enjoyed walking downtown for an evening out. But those evenings start and end a lot earlier than they used to.

More often than not, I've had a drink and dinner and am back home by, say, 9 p.m., which is earlier than the time I used to head downtown to begin a night out. The corner revived by the City Tavern used to be where a guy sold late, late night pizza that, at that hour, hit the spot.

But enough memory lane. Let's talk about now, about the wee hours of the morning.

Should the bars continue to stay open until 4 in the morning? Should they close at 2? The fatal hit-and-run on St. Patrick's Day (really, early the next morning) has brought this perennial question to the fore. What do you think? What do you recommend for closing time, and why?

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Where the boys are: Albany's Fort Orange Club

Had a meeting last week at the Fort Orange Club. It's wedged in downtown Albany amid the imposing structures of state government, near the edifice of an Education Department building and just behind the Alfred E. Smith building (which growing up reminded me of the headquarters of the Daily Planet).

Inside, it's hush-hush, stately yet understated, with chairs and books bound in leather, dark-wood paneling, and the requisite antlered deer's head, evoking images of overweight, cigar-chomping white guys gathering to eat, drink and ponder their plunder.

To be fair, the room was comfortable, the service friendly, the Cobb salad loaded with fresh chicken breast and bacon, and the oversize macaroon lived up to its reputation as a dessert worth saving room for, or making room for. Members needn't worry about indulging in dessert, as the club touts a new health facility for both men and women who can drop in to work out, wash up, and get back to business.

We wondered why the working fireplace was flanked by a real ax rather than the usual tongs and a poker, but didn't ask. Mary Miller of the New York News Publishers Association and I figured it was a macho thing.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Rock on at The Linda with The Hold Steady. Or, where are you, college kids?

You've heard of The Hold Steady if you're hip to music or, as in my case, married to someone who is.

When The Linda, WAMC's music hall in downtown Albany, announced it would be hosting The Hold Steady, my husband thought it would be fun to go, and I thought it would be fun to make him happy. We were only a wee bit wary about the warning: this would be a standing room only performance.

We were both right, on all counts. It was fun, even though the only seats in sight were for the keyboardist on stage and the sound tech way in the rear of the room. We claimed two places up against the back wall so we could listen and lean.

The Linda is a rehabbed bank building with remnants of its past life in the high ceiling and tall, arched windows. It would be like going into the Adirondack and finding the teller windows gone and a stage in place of the safety deposit boxes vaults.

One thing we wondered is where are all the kids. Here was a $20 concert on a Wednesday night in downtown Albany, with maybe 30,000 college kids within a 10-mile radius. Or is The Linda just one of Albany's best kept secrets?

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Join the conversations, add to our stable of Saratogian bloggers

It’s a weird word, blog — the merging of "web" and "log," which at first conjured up virtual reams of narcissistic chatter: "Blah, blah, blah, blog."

Now I recognize blogs as places to think out loud, share information and, best of all, spark conversation — all of which you can find at

My boss made me place my blog first on the page, forcing me to post more often. I hope you’ll check it out and comment. But you might be just as, if not more, interested in reading Mareesa Nicosia’s business news, Patrick Donges’s political beat, Nicole Russo on horse racing, Andrew Bernstein on competitive bicycling, Stan Hudy on sports, Steve Shoemaker’s Web musings, or Betsy DeMars and Lauren Rose’s "Media Moms," on balancing motherhood and career.

I'd like to tell Betsy and Lauren it gets easier. It just gets different. Click on their site to offer words or warning ... or encouragement. is also a place for blogs by readers.

Couch potatoes who follow "Lost" and like TV and movies should check out Entertainment Daily. Read the critiques and critique the critic. Rather be outside? Read the Zen Bird Feeder and look at those lovely photos.

Want to get away? See Best Travel Deals for get-away ideas on a budget. Politics tickle your fancy? See what Saratoga Springs resident Tom Lewis is saying in "Right of Center."

Surely there’s a "Left of Center" out there who’d like to join our cast of bloggers. Hello?

If you have a blog or are you a fan of one that ought to be on, send me a comment with a link. Let’s keep the conversations going and growing.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Good grammar, more or less

As you can tell from my last post, I am rarely eligible for the express checkout aisle at Price Chopper. But I used it to buy a birthday cake for thirty-something Betsy DeMars, the assistant managing editor. Anyway, I looked up and noticed, with delight, that the sign said "20 items or fewer" as opposed to "20 items or less."
Fewer is the grammatically correct word.
When to use "less" or "fewer" is almost instinctive for writers with a propensity for correct grammar. The rest of us look it up. I frequently refer to one of my writing bibles, "The Careful Writer" by the late, great Theodore Bernstein, and double-checked the less vs. fewer entry before creating this post.
Thank you, Price Chopper, for doing it right.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Saratoga Tree Nursery manager giving state workers a good name

Forgive me for going out on a limb, but I want to praise David Lee, the manager of the Saratoga Tree Nursery at the Saratoga Spa State Park, for his can-do attitude in the face of state government ineptitude.
"Spring has sprung, but the government hasn't," he said. The nursery has a million tree and shrub seedlings ready to harvest and ship, but as of Monday the state hadn't approved the annual hiring of seasonal workers, leaving Lee with 13 people to do the work of 50.
So what will happen?
"Whatever it takes, we'll get the job done," was Lee's conclusion in Paul Post's "5 W's" interview published Tuesday, April 6.
He's at risk of giving state workers a good name.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Moving toward a new form of government in Saratoga Springs: Meeting April 8

Saratoga Springs is a great city despite its form of government. But that doesn't mean the form of government shouldn't change. Now, the city has the archaic commission government, one in which no one is in charge and City Council members are both legislators and administrators. A group of citizens is poised to place on the November ballot a referendum to change that to a council/manager form.
What does that mean?
We'll be publishing a lot about this in the weeks and months ahead. Meanwhile, I encourage you to stop by the Saratoga Springs Public Library at 7 p.m. Thursday (April 8) to learn and ask questions about the movement that is afoot to place this change on the ballot.
The Web site is still under construction, but it does address a number of frequently asked questions and offers more contact information.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Running on fumes thanks to Price Chopper

One of the smartest sales promotions in memory, because it has actually altered my buying habit, is Price Chopper's cents-off on Sunoco gas.

I don't think I'd ever bought Sunoco before Price Chopper started offering a dime off the price of gas for every $50 spent at the supermarket. I felt a twinge of guilt at dropping Mobil, but I got over it when my fill-up was cut by 90 cents a gallon. And I never spend more at Price Chopper than I would ordinarily, because I ordinarily spend a ridiculous amount on groceries (and then wonder why I only have food for two dinners).

The only downside is that I now play chicken with my gas gauge. Twice coming home from Albany I've had to get off the Northway before Saratoga Springs and coast to a Sunoco. The cents-off gets used up on a single fill-up, so I want that E as low as it can go. I know I'm not the only one doing this, but I won't embarrass anyone by naming names.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Prayers and wishes for those in the military

Walking through Congress Park this beautiful Friday morning, I saw a young man and woman, both in full military fatigues, engaged in animated, merry chatter as they sat along the little round fish pond not far from the war memorial.

As I approached them, I wanted to say, "Thank you for serving our country."

But I was also thinking, "Stay out of harm's way. Return home to your loved ones safe, well, in one piece."

And with those thoughts, I couldn't get past the lump in my throat to offer even a friendly acknowledgement. They weren't looking my way, anyway. So I walked on by.

But the image of them stays with me. I do thank them for serving our country, and pray for their safety, and wish I hadn't missed the moment to speak the words aloud.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Saratoga Springs native David Hyde Pierce's charm and generosity are not an act

David Hyde Pierce is a charming gentleman who took the time to help turn Home Made Theater's 25th anniversary celebration last Saturday into a sellout, donated priceless tickets and a backstage hello to his next Broadway show this fall for the fundraiser's auction, and delighted the audience with banter about his family, praise for his father and a few songs.
But that's not all.
The Saratoga Springs native was in the audience for last Friday's performance of the high school musical "Bells Are Ringing," and afterwards surprised the drama club with a backstage visit. A photo of David with the drama club took up most of page 3 in the print edition of The Saratogian on Tuesday. You can see it online by searching for David Hyde Pierce.
Saturday, April 3, is his 51st birthday (if the Associated Press is accurate). Happy birthday!
Check out Saturday's Saratogian for a photo page from the Home Made Theater party.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Grant Cottage in Wilton and ex-president's memory deserve better

Ann Marie French's story the other day about the decaying exterior of President Ulysses S. Grant's cottage in the Saratoga County town of Wilton, where he completed his memoirs during the last weeks of his life, is an example of what's wrong with New York state.
For years devoted "Friends of Ulysses S. Grant Cottage" have volunteered to maintain this bit of national history. The friends are in charge of a visitors' center, while the state has let the exterior of the cottage itself, which contains the 18th president's belongings, fall into disrepair.
As Lance Ingmire, the president of the Friends of Ulysses S. Grant Cottage and a familiar name to anyone following Civil War encampments, told Ann Marie French, “We cannot let our historic sites fall apart just because of mismanagement of money at the state level.”
Check out